Sometimes in life something happens that makes you ask the big questions: what’s it all about? what’s the point? why am I here? It might be a near miss in the car, the death of a parent or friend or a national disaster. In my case it’s an FA Cupset, defeat for Everton at Reading’s lower league, smaller, cheaper, less skilful hands. Ok, I’m not comparing football to the Boxing Day Tsunami or Haiti, maybe it’s more on a par with the foot and mouth crisis. I’m with that old, dead, red, Shankly on this one.
Anyway, moving away from the bone to the meat. What is it all about? If you don’t support a team with billionaire backing, what’s the point? Of course, this may seem slightly contradictory, pleading Everton’s poverty the day after they have been beaten by a team that cost less than Marouane Fellaini’s monthly shampoo bill, but stay with me. First off though, fair play to Reading, they were organised, fought for and won almost every ball and looked dangerous going forward. Sadly – from my point of view – Everton did not.
But anyway, that meat: why bother? If you’re in The Championship or below you have promotion as a target and for almost all clubs this is a realistic target that may be achieved within a season or two, even if it comes through finishing 6th and then a couple of lucky results. But what about teams like Everton? And Fulham and Stoke and Blackburn and every other team for whom survival is fairly certain? Perhaps it is the demoralising impact of our defeat that makes me group my once mighty (oh, for the 80s) club with the footballing powerhouses of Stoke and Blackburn. Or perhaps it is that football has gone from a game, to a sport, to a business and now to a fiscal dictatorship.
Maybe two or three seasons ago, as the magic of Moyes looked capable of making us European regulars I could dream of incremental growth one day making us title contenders. Even if it was to happen at evolutionary pace, there was hope. The Europa League attracting better players, an FA Cup final maybe leading to a Carling Cup victory and slowly but surely an increasing flow of quality players, an expanding fan base and on-pitch success all acting as a virtuous circle to improve our finances to the stage where we could compete, especially with Liverpool’s diminished performances.
Of course, it hasn’t happened that way. Man City came along, Spurs keep on spending (where do they get the cash from?) and even Sunderland, Bolton, Stoke and others outspend us. Where the alchemist Moyes had a few million to turn rocks like Arteta, Cahill, Jagielka, Lescott, Pienaar and others into Premier League gold, he is now asked to conjure diamonds from nothing when even Superman started with a piece of coal.
In Rodwell and Coleman Moyes has managed to produce top quality players but with a combined spend of just £500,000 in the last three transfer windows and next to nothing spent net of incoming fees, we have been left behind. We have signed young strikers on free transfers from the Portuguese second division, the English third, from Greece and even from Azerbaijan but it’s not, and never could be, good enough.
In this modern game money doesn’t just talk. It talks, dances, sings and most importantly scores goals.
So what about Everton? I don’t want the foreign billionaire, to be honest. I like the fact that skint Bill Kenwright is a Blue through and through and that the team and manager retain (relative) closeness to the fans. Moyes was right, we are the Peoples’ Club and I don’t want us to buy instant success, I want us to earn it. But earning it through player development, the academy and the skill of the manager isn’t an option anymore on such an unfair playing field.
So, what is the point? What do I want for my team and what hopes can I have? Is it enough to strive for 10th place in the Premier League and maybe the odd victory over Liverpool or point at Old Trafford? Frankly, no. The point is pain and misery and suffering. But maybe it’s the hangover talking.
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